If you have ever used Linux then you might know that Linux can support almost any type of computer hardware and Android smartphone hardware is no different. So this means we can use Linux even on our Android smartphones, but now the question is why would anyone like to use Linux distro on a smartphone? And which Linux distributions are at present available to install on smartphone hardware.
As you might already know Android in its core is Linux, which means kernel used in Android is based on Linux kernel. But still calling Android a Linux distribution is under debate. As even though Android uses Linux kernel it doesn’t come with other software of Linux distributions.
Android as well doesn’t run typical Linux applications, as it uses the Dalvik virtual machine to run specific applications written in JAVA. Also, Android apps are specifically programmed to work on Android devices. So this means Android is different than Linux, but still why would anyone replace Android with Linux on a Smartphone? Let’s answer that.
Why use Linux on a Smartphone?
Android although it is open source by nature, still it is not considered open source by many due to the presence of some proprietary software. This software makes Android less privacy-focused OS.
Linux, on the other hand, can offer a completely open-source OS. So we can use our smartphones without any proprietary software. It will help us in keeping our data private and improving our privacy. Linux is also considered more secure than Android, and installing Linux will make our devices more secure.
Linux normally support older hardware also, this would be beneficial for smartphones. As smartphones normally get software updates for 3-4 years after their release. But Linux will enable long term software updates for smartphones, maybe up to ten years also. This will increase the life span of our smartphones and will also save us a lot of money.
These reasons make Linux one of the best options against Android. As some Linux based distros already support Android apps, this will give users a plethora of app choices (Android and Linux based apps combined). So Linux can be surely become a nice alternative to Android.
So now, is it possible to replace Android with Linux? Yes, there surely is, and below are the Operating Systems that you can at present use on Android a Smartphone.
How to use Linux on a Smartphone?
The easiest way to use Linux on an Android phone is to install any supported Linux distribution. Here is the list of Linux distributions that are available for smartphones. If you want you can also buy the phones that come preinstalled with Linux.
Just a note, below list is not in hierarchical or chronological order.
1) Ubuntu touch
Ubuntu Touch was originally released by Ubuntu developers Canonical, but currently, it is being maintained by UBports. As it is currently being maintained, it will make sure you will receive future updates.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux operating systems at present. While Ubuntu Touch offers a unique experience for touch devices with Ubuntu as the base system.
Ubuntu Touch also comes preinstalled with all basic apps, to give you a great experience from the beginning. The best feature of Ubuntu Touch is Convergence.
Convergence is when you connect an external monitor to your phone with a keyboard and mouse, you can use it as if its a desktop computer. Same as Samsung DeX in Galaxy S9 and newer Galaxy flagship phones.
At the time of writing this article quite a few devices are compatible with this OS. You can check here if your device is compatible with Ubuntu Touch.
One of the most feature-rich desktop environment is KDE Plasma, and now they have also started developing OS for smartphones. The feature-rich nature of Plasma makes it one of the best choices for a new smartphone operating system.
One of the best things about Plasma apart from being highly customizable is that it is open source. It provides you privacy as well it’s free to install.
Perhaps the other great thing Plasma Mobile Project is that it can also run desktop Plasma apps and widgets. It even supports Ubuntu Touch-based apps to run on Plasma mobile. This gives a wider selection of apps to choose from and customize according to your needs.
Currently, Plasma Mobile only supports Nexus 5X only. But development is in progress and soon you will be able to use it on other phones also.
Postmarket OS is created with a focus on privacy, security and to provide long term software updates to mobile phones. It is a touch-optimized, pre-configured Alpine Linux with its own packages.
PMOS(Postmarket OS) aims to provide a 10-year life cycle for smartphones. As it’s based on Alpine Linux it’s light and you can easily modify it to suit your phone’s hardware. That way Postmarket OS can support the most number of devices easily.
Here is the list of the supported device for PMOS. If your device supports you can easily try using Postmarket OS. If you want to install it here is a guide on how to install Postmaker OS on your phone.
Purism claims that PureOS is convergent, which means just like Samsung Dex we will also be able to use Librem5 as a desktop when connected to a monitor.
Purism has created Librem for anybody and everybody interested in protecting his/her data. This device also aims to provide private and secure ways of communication.
Librem also claims to be a device for a lifetime, as it claims to always provide security updates, privacy improvements, bug fixes, and new features.
Yes, it is possible to replace Android with Linux on a smartphone. Installing Linux on a smartphone will improve privacy and will also provide software updates for a longer duration of time. But Linux for smartphones is far away from the mainstream and right now it’s supported for only a few selected numbers of devices.
But if you want a secure and privacy-focused OS and are ready to compromise on certain features, then you can replace Android with Linux on your smartphone. Try installing any of the above OS if it supports your device and then you can enjoy privacy. And don’t forget to tell us about your experience in the comments.
If you just want to try Linux without root on your smartphone, here is how to install Kali on Android without root.